Dear Riley and Judy:

"There was an interesting article concerning the fact that the CIA was using a secret code developed by the Abbott of Spanheim, Trithemius. This chap was the teacher of Cornelius Agrippa, of Paracelsus and of Dr. Faust. Some heavy credentials! Trithemius was an alchemist of note, amongst those who are into the subject, but managed to keep a low profile -- until (not the CIA) but the National Security Agency turned onto his codes.

"His book 'Polygraphia' describes the development of almost impossible-to-crack cryptographic code techniques. His 'Stenographia' is a true book on magic. His pupil, Agrippa, wrote three volumes on magic, the 'Occulta Philosophia'. The first of these three volumes has been re-printed by Samuel Weiser, New York, but that is it. As a budding alchemist I have more than a passing interest in these books as well as one titled 'Picatrix'."

Hans W. Nintzel
Richardson, Texas

It is not surprising that the CIA and the National Security Agency are drawing on Trithemius' writings for advanced information on Cryptography. Learned occultists like the Abbot had to write in code to avoid arousing the malevolent attention of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and of the local royal dictatorship of the time, MIRO we call it, the Military Industrial Religious Oligarchy that runs most capitalist nations. So the study and use of Cryptography was an important part of occult science in the Middle Ages -- IF the occultist wanted to stay alive and carry on his work! Sir Francis Bacon certainly became an expert at it, and for the same reasons. At least six different codes have been discovered in the Shakespeare Plays written by him.

I wonder, Hans, if you shouldn't be more interested in the writings of Trithemius than in those of his pupil, Agrippa? We have the Weiser-published volume of Agrippa and there isn't much but general philosophy in it. We have two volumes of the writings of Trithemius, translated from the Latin and published in London in 1800 by Francis Barret, and re-published by Basil Wilby, Helios [4] Book Service, Ltd, 8 The Square, Toddington, Near Cheltenham, Gloucester, England, 1966. If they are still in print you can probably obtain them from Wilby. Write for list and current prices.

It seems that the most important part of Trithemius' Qabalistic system was the making and magnetizing of the Sigils and Symbols which put one in touch with the Spirits of the various planets and Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. This is a formal, proven way of calling forth Invisible Forces and directing them to constructive -- or destructive -- ends, according to one's intention.

A fishtailed woman with a mirror in one hand and a branch in the other.

For example, No. 34 on page 29. The Image to be engraved on the precious stone or mineral is that of: "A fishtailed woman with a mirror in one hand and a branch in the other." The stone to be used is a Hyacinth. The Benefit is "to make the wearer invisible". Trithemius comments: "It should be set in a gold ring and worn on a finger. To operate the ring it must be turned with the stone nearest the palm which should then be closed. The sigil should be covered with wax."

Of course in the preceding pages there are detailed instructions for preparing one's self for such contacts, and the preparations may require years of dedicated study and practice -- unless one has spent thousands of hours at it in previous lives! For some dabblers pick up a book like this, try one of the experiments just for the hell of it, and get astonishing results.


Francis Barrett writes: "Brother, it is necessary for me to inform thee, that whatever thy desires are in the pursuit of this Art, which we call Magic, so wilt thy connexion and answer be. If in the pursuit of revenge, it is but proper thou shouldest know that thou wilt, in any of these experiments here laid down, draw to thyself a revengful demon, or an infernal, furious spirit, serving in the principle of the wrath of God."

Or God-the-Destroyer, we say, and when the Dr. Fausts of the Central Intelligence Agency crank up their wall-sized Radionics equipment to work the death-prayer on one of their enemies, human and sub-human monsters from the Lower Astral come at their "call" and gleefully take part in the evil. The Radionic instrument is a magickal instrument, so is the UKACO device, as well as the Dowser's wand and the pendulum. In her chapter on Tiphareth, the Christ-center on the Tree of Life, in her book "The Mystical Qabalah", Dion Fortune explains more fully the ramifications of human and elemental contact, and why conscious approach to these Invisible Forces should be made; with care and by the use of a formal, proven system.


"The Order of Angels of Tiphareth are the Malachim, or Kings. These are the spiritual principles of natural forces -- and no one can control, or even safely make contact with elemental principles unless he holds the initiation of Tiphareth, which is that of a minor adept. For he must have been accepted by the Elemental Kings, that is to say he must have realised the ultimate spiritual nature of natural forces before he can handle them (safely) in their elemental form.

"In their subjective elemental form they appear in the microcosm (you and me) as powerful instincts of combat, of reproduction, of self-abasement, of self-aggrandisement, and all those emotional factors known to the psychologist. It is obvious, therefore, that if we stir and stimulate these emotions in our natures it must be in order that we may use them as servants of the Higher Self, directed by reason and spiritual principle. It is necessary, therefore, that when we operate the elemental forces we do so through the Kings, under the presidency of the Archangel and by the invocation of the Holy Name of God appropriate to the sphere. Microcosmically, this means that the powerful elemental driving-forces of our nature are correlated with the Higher Self instead of being dissociated into the Qliphotic underworld of the Freudian unconscious.

"Elemental operations are not, of course, performed in the Sphere of Tiphareth, but it is essential that they should be controlled from the Sphere of Tiphareth if they are to remain White Magic. If there is no such higher control, they will soon slide off into Black Magic.

"It is said that at the Fall (from the Garden of Eden) the four lower Sephiroth (our physical personality) became detached from Tiphareth and assimilated to the Qliphoth. When the elemental forces become detached from their spiritual principles in our concepts so that they become ends in themselves, even if no evil but but merely experimentation is intended, a Fall takes place and degeneration soon follows."

The most horrible contemporary example of this is the medical profession with its continuing torturing and killing of defenseless animals in lab work.

"But when we clearly realize the spiritual principles behind all natural things, they are then in a state of innocence, to use a theological term with a definite connotation; they are unfallen, and we can safely work with them and advantageously develop them in our own natures; thus bringing about the unrepression and equilibrium so necessary to mental health. This correlation of the natural with the spiritual, thus maintaining it unfallen and in a state of innocency, is a very important point in all practical workings in any form of magic."

Now back to Francis Barrett's words of advice to the Seeker:


"If thy desires are worldly riches and aggrandizement, then shalt thou have an earthial or fiery spirit, which will delude thee with the riches of the central world (a good, contemporary example of this is the late, unlamented Dr. Morris Fishbein, who turned the American Medical Association into an instrument of power and oppression); if fame, or the blaze of glory, then the spirits of pride will be alloted thee, who will gratify they inordinate desire of vain glory (another off the front pages of the papers is Richard M. Nixon); for all these offices are there spirits allotted and will be eager to mix with thy spirit; it will attract thee to his own nature, and serve all thy purposes according to the extent of God's permission; and as thy desires are and from what principle they proceed, so shalt thou be answered.

"But if thou desirest to know nothing but for the honour and glory of God, and the help of thy neighbour, and, in great humility, fill thy heart with the love of God, thou shalt then have a pure spirit which will grant (by the Lord's permission) thy desires. Therefore seek for that which is good; avoid all evil either thought word, or action; pray to God to fill thee with wisdom, and then thou shalt reap an abundant harvest. There are two ways magically set before thee, chuse which thou wilt, thou shalt be sure of thy reward. Farewel."

London, 1800.             F.B.

It seems likely that Francis Barrett was a reincarnation of one of Trithemius' cheelas or students in a previous life in Germany, carrying on at the physical level the occult studies and practices of that earlier existence, but doing it more openly in the freer mental "climate" of England. Here is Barrett's biographical sketch of one of the great initiates of our Western Tradition.


"Johann Tritheim, or Trithemius of Spannheim as he is sometimes called, was born on February 1st, 1462, at Trittenheim, near Trier, and died on December 27th, 1516 at Wurzburg. He was the only son of a vintner, John Heidenburg, and Elizabeth de Longwy, who had aristocratic connections.

"His mother became a widow shortly after his birth and did not marry again for seven years. She had several children by her second husband but only one of them survived, As a result Johann seems to have been badly treated. His stepfather even tried to stop him from learning to read when he was fifteen, but he overcame this obstacle and even managed to learn Latin secretly from a neighbour.

"At last he left home to attend the Universities of Trier and Heidelburg, returning in 1482. There was a violent blizzard when he reached Spannheim and he sought shelter in the Benedictine Abbey. It was a fateful decision for he made his profession as monk eleven months later, while in June 1483, the Abbot, recognising his abilities and talents, resigned in his favour.


"Tritheim (at only 21!) set about reforming the rule and practical affairs of the monastery, both of which had decayed due to the negligence and inertia of his predecessors. He also increased the size of the library from forty to two thousand volumes, a considerable achievement at that time (and so necessary to the occult scientist, an adequate reference library).

"He soon acquired a reputation for piety and learning that attracted many notable people from over a considerable distance. However, there were many who secretly condemned Trithemius for practising sorcery, necromancy, alchemy and magic. This opinion was confirmed when Trithemius raised Mary Burgundy, the dead wife of the Emperor Maximilian at his request.

"In 1505 he left his monastery to advise Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine, as to whether he should enter an enclosed order. Taking advantage of his absence, a body of dissatisfied monks rebelled, probably because of the strictness of his rule and his unorthodox opinions. To obtain reinstatement he canvassed support unsuccessfully in Cologne and Speer, but eventually accepted the Abbey of St. James at Wurzburg in the autumn of 1506. He died peacefully when he was fifty-five.

"He is said to have had Paracelsus among his pupils and Cornelius Agrippa dedicates his Three Books of Occult Philosophy to the Abbot. He seems to have been strangely neglected in favour of his more popular pupils.

"He was author of many books covering the divergent fields of Theology, Spiritual Works, History, Mysticism and Magic. His supporters praise his knowledge, his simplicity and love of truth; his critics have attacked his style. His most interesting works, so far as the reader of this book is concerned, are:

1. Chronologia mystica de vii secundeis, sive intelligentis orben cast Deum moventibus. Early editions in German and Latin, Augsburg 1545. An account of Angelic intelligences supposed to be operating on Earth at different epochs.

2. Antipalus maleficiorum, Ingolstadt 1555. An expose of superstition and the nature of evil spirits, together with forms of exorcism.

3. Polygraphit cum clave. In various Latin editions. Under this title Trithemius wrote a manual of Cabalistical writing; he gives 13 alphabets formed from contemporary characters, together with figures and conventional signs.

4. Steganographica. In various Latin editions. A system based on secret correspondences; i.e. a system of symbols in correct relationship to each other, representing the human psyche and capable of attracting the forces of which the psyche is composed.

5. Philosophia naturalis de Geomantia. Strasbourg 1609. A handbook of Geomancy.


6. De Lapide philosophica. an account of the Philosopher's Stone included in Ripley's Theatrum Chymicum.

7. Sigilla et Imagines Magicae. Magic Seals and Images.

It is this latter book, number seven on Seals and Images, from which we are quoting, translated from the Latin of Trithemius by David Williams in 1965 and published by Wilby. One almost has to be an astrologer to manufacture and use these Seals and Images effectively -- and an astronomer as well! There were no readily available Ephemerides in Trithemius' time, giving the planetary positions every day at noon, Greenwich Mean Time.

The Abbot of Spanheim wrote: "The time of manufacture is of prime importance for you must carefully choose the right Moment for inscribing and engraving the stone; so that it may acquire the greatest potency and virtue. This will be at a maximum at the times stated for the influence of the heavens is very great. Thus you can acquire hate when you planned to inspire love, if bad aspects are present. For this reason those who wish to make an image governed by a particular planet should observe this table: Saturn -- work should be done when Capricorn or Aquarius are well aspected; Jupiter -- Sagittarius and Pisces; Mars -- Aries and Scorpio; Sun -- Leo; Venus -- Taurus and Libra; Mercury -- Gemini and Virgo; Moon -- Cancer . . . In every case the planet concerned should be free from all opposing influences, particularly those of Saturn or Mars . . .

"The science of these magical images, as practised by the wise men of old . . . stems from the philosophy of the Magi, and it is true natural magic not to be confused with goetic and necromantic practices . . . the planets whose influence you seek should be strong and well aspected, in their own house, exalted or trine in a segment of the heavens lying to the East or in the arch of the sky, at its centre; being free from the malefic influences of Saturn and supported by Venus or Jupiter in trine, sextile of conjunt, moving freely and swiftly in their course without hesitation, and not retrograde, not combust and ideally rising between the Great and Little Bear . . ."

There are 30 pages of seals and images used by Trithemius in his Cabalistic work there in Germany in the 15th Century. In modern time the work is carried forward in greater detail by the late Franz Bardon. We wonder if Bardon may not have been a reincarnation of one of Trithemius' better pupils, perhaps Agrippa himself, completing or carrying forward in this life the work left unfinished in that life of the 16th Century. Like Agrippa, Bardon wrote and published three books, now translated from the German in to English "Initiation Into Hermetics", "The Key to the True Qabbalah", and "The Practice of Magical Evocation". It is this latter work which gives the names and responsibilities of the Spirits of the Earth the Moon, Venus, etc., as well as their Sigils or psychic telephone numbers by which they can be called up. But without clairvoyance and clairaudience for conscious communication -- it's a closed book.


  1. Trithemius's Polygraphiae libri sex Ioannis Trithemij, abbatis Peapolitani quondam Spanheimensis, ad Maximilianum Caesarem. <>
  2. Trithemius's Steganographia qvæ hvcvsqve a nemine intellecta, sed passim vt svpposititia, perniciosa, magica et necromantica, reiecta. <> [For ease you may also wish to consider the HTML form, "Steganographia (Secret Writing)": <>]
  3. Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia libri III — text refers to Occult Philosophy or Magic, Book One: Natural Magic. New York: Weiser, 1971. <>
  4. Picatrix, or Ġāyat al-Ḥakīm, sometimes translated as "The Aim of the Sage," is an Arabic grimoire of medieval origin. English translation, 2011: <>
  5. Barrett, Francis. The Magic and Philosophy of Trithemius of Spanheim: Containing His Book of Secret Things, and Doctrine of Spirits ... Never yet Published in the English Language. Toddington: Helios Books, 1965. Print.
  6. Barrett, Francis, and Johannes Trithemius. The Magus, Or, Celestial Intelligencer: Being a Complete System of Occult Philosophy: in Three Books Containing the Antient and Modern Practice of the Cabalistic Art, Natural and Celestial Magic, &c. ... Exhibiting the Sciences of Natural Magic; Alchymy, or Hermetic Philosophy Also the Nature, Creation, and Fall of Man ... to Which Is Added Biographia Antiqua, or the Lives of the Most Eminent Philosophers, Magi, &c.: the Whole Illustrated with a Great Variety of Curious Engravings, Magical and Cabalistical Figures, &c. London: Printed for Lackington, Allen, and Co, 1801. Print. [Digital: <>; reprint, University Books (1967): <>; reprint, Red Wheel/Weiser (2000): <>]
  7. Fortune, Dion. The Mystical Qabalah. London: Williams and Norgate Ltd., 1935. Print. <> [Digital (PDF): <,%20Dion%20-%20The%20Mystical%20Qabalah.pdf>]
  8. Bardon, Franz. Initiation into Hermetics: A Course of Instruction of Magic Theory and Practice. Wuppertal: Ruggeberg, 1971. Print. [Re-ed., 2013: <>]
  9. Bardon, Franz. The Key to the True Quabbalah: The Quabbalist as a Sovereign in the Microcosm and the Macrocosm. Wuppertal, Western Germany: D. Rüggeberg, 1975. Print. <> [Re-ed. as "The Key to the True Kabbalah", 2013: <>]
  10. Bardon, Franz, and Peter Dimai. The Practice of Magical Evocation: Instructions for Invoking Spirits from the Spheres Surrounding Us. Wuppertal, W. Germany: D. Rüggeberg, 1970. Print. <> [Re-ed., 2011: <>]

Further Reading

  1. Brann, Noel L. The Abbot Trithemius (1462-1516): The Renaissance of Monastic Humanism. Leiden: Brill, 1981. Print.
  2. Brann, Noel L. Trithemius and Magical Theology: A Chapter in the Controversy Over Occult Studies in Early Modern Europe. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999. Print. <>
  3. Reeds, Jim. Solved: The Ciphers in Book III of Trithemius's Steganographia. 1998. Internet resource. <>